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'You're seeing the future'

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

The number of Canadians visiting Istanbul has skyrocketed as the city becomes a buzzing, cosmopolitan hub. Istiklal Avenue, where velvet-roped nightclubs meet cutting-edge design, is at the heart of the transformation. Carly Weeks reports ...Read the full article

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  1. Moe El-Abdallah from Toronto, Canada writes: Reading this article just re-enforced my decision to go there in September. Can't wait!
  2. bob gervitz from United States writes: Had a wonderful time in Istanbul and western turkey during a three-week visit there two years ago. Beautiful country, superb architecture, surprisingly friendly people. Really enjoyed ourselves. A great combination of ancient and quite modern. I truly look forward to going back.

    Only thing to be cautious of is drinking tap water and eating from buffets, since in both cases there can be germs/bacteria that westerners have not encountered (not unlike bugs in the west that easterners haven't built resistance to). But don't let that stop you going.
  3. Mike Chamberlain from Canada writes: Beautiful city, friendly people, great food. Hardly a s**thole, but be wary of pickpockets--just like in Paris and Barcelona.

    Make a quick visit to Sultanahmet and spend most of your time in Beyoglu. Go up to the Ortakoy Mosque (the one in the picture, beneath the Bosporus Bridge) and take a boat to the Asian side or one of the Prince's Islands.
  4. A C from Paris, France writes: Meet a Turk online before you go. Your visit will be a hundred times better.

    Of course to some brits everywhere is a sh..hole, except their rainy isle. I watched a UK couple order a coffee in Italy and walk away when they tasted it 'That's not coffee!!'. Of course the 20 yr bewildered old waiter waiter likely had to pay for it. Italy has the best coffee anywhere, but you can't expect a Pom to appreciate it.

    I've had Turkish coffee abroad but I want to taste it in Ortokay, with my new Turkish friend. I'm sure it's as good as Italian, and the city just as wonderous as Rome. I can't wait!
  5. Little Bear from Canada writes: This the same Istanbul that was on the CBC a few weeks ago as the gateway for the white slave market from Eastern Europe.

    They manage to keep 3-4 girls in a tiny apartment servicing 25 guys a day each. The girls get virtually nothing and the slave traders, pimps make a killing.

    Almost an unlimited supply of fresh stuff from Europe to keep the trade going. After a while in Turkey they are resold to Africa or Asia according to the documentary.

    No thanks.
  6. Rej Mahon from istanbul, Turkey writes: As an expat living in Istanbul, its good to see more ink on this fine destination. However, the dining options mentioned in the article were quite disappointing. Travel writers always seem to neglect the real local places to write about the famed 360 (where recently one Dutch tourist was beaten into a coma by 360 staff) and the like.
    What about Ciya in Kadikoy where foodies claim they've found the best restaurant in the city?
    Or Abracadabra in Arnavutkoy where a real food revolution is going on?
    I think we need to look to alternative sources of information before setting off on trips (or researching stories). I always hunt down a good local food blog for restaurant reco's.
    In Istanbul I always use www.istanbuleats.com
    Afiyet olsun,
    -Rej
  7. Exer cist from Canada writes: Istanbul is an interesting experience. I remember eating at a small local restaurant, where we were surprised to finnd that coffee (Turkish or otherwise) was not on the menu! But when the waiter realized our surprise and disappointment, he happily went to the coffee shop across the street and brought us over coffees. Generally friendly, perhaps occasionally risky, diverse and fascinating. And about 12,000,000 people at the last count!
  8. Ron Lewis from Canmore, Canada writes: We lived in Turkey for a year, 2005-6. It's an amazing place. Istanbul is fascinating and you certainly must see it (Rej Mahon gives excellent advice about interesting parts to visit, to which we'd add the Prince's Islands), but there are better places to get a sense of the real Turkey. Bergama is underrated (and has one of the best places to buy Turkish carpets, a weavers' co-op where 90% of the money goes to the women who make the rugs). Izmir is a vital and exciting city. Ankara is steeped in 10,000 years of history. Konya is the spiritual heart of the country and is minutes away from atal Hyk, the birthplace of agriculture. The Turkish people, once you get past the tourist-area touts, are warm and generous, exemplifying the best in the Islamic tradition of hospitality. Go!
  9. Ivan Wilson from Canada writes: 'You're seeing the future' eh?

    I've seen the future baby, it is murder.
    L. Cohen

    Perhaps Leonard was looking at Turkey - the place to put the rubber tube if you want to give earth an enema.
  10. Jon Allan from Toronto (Istanbul), Canada writes: Rej, thanks for the tip

    www.istanbuleats.com
  11. geographer from Vancouver from Vancouver, Canada writes: agree with Rej, although the G & M article was rather good, I've been to Istanbul 6 times and lived in Turkey and the hotel and food choices are way off: G & M lists only the most expensive hotels for some reason but its easy to stay in very nice small hotels or even large ones for $100 or much less ($70 off season in very nice hotels in Sultanahmed in some places); there are tens of thousands of restaurants and I had the best food away from the tourist areas - the ones G & M lists are touristy, overpriced.
    Food is one of the best things about Istanbul but I would not go to the choices listed here. Go where the locals eat. Take a ferry across bosphorus and go to restaurants where no one speaks english. That will be far better food, better experience, and much cheaper, and learn some Turkish!
  12. Bruce Macdonald from Paris, France writes: I really enjoy Istanbul and am travelling there reasonably frequently on business. The people are wonderful and the city is great. The traffic is a horror show, especially if you need to travel between Asian side and European side, but you can always take the sea bus.

    However, one things mystifies me, Canadian visas are over 2X the next closest - 45 versus I believe 20 for the next closest. With a 3 month validity, I seem to always be there 3 months and a day, so I get hit up about 3 times a year X 45! That's more expensive than Russia.

    Anyone know why Canada has the highest cost for visas?

    BTW - for people planning to travel to Turkey, a useful tidbit is to make sure you get your visa before you lign up for customs or you'll get to restart the process - learnt from experience. The queues are right next to each other - at least at Ataturk airport in Istanbul.

    Nevertheless, still a great place to visit and do business. From a business perspective, the open innovative attitude is something a lot of us could take onboard.
  13. Fed Up from Canada writes: Only $465 a night for a room! What a bargain!
  14. Erik Newson from San Diego, United States writes: The reason Canadians are charged 45 is probably because Turks are charged 45 by Canadians. At we're not as bad off as the Americans are - 100 dollars for a Turkish visa!
  15. Mike Chamberlain from Canada writes: Little Bear, I wonder that you don't mention that Canada is the place where the RCMP taser unarmed Polish tourists to death.
  16. Henry B from Galtabad, Canada writes: "it can be tricky to take a few steps without running into a 1,000-year-old mosque" I guess that history is not the forte of the writer. Turkey had been Christian until 1453; any "1,000-year-old mosque" would be a church that had been forcibly converted to a mosque or a far newer structure. Curiously, this former Christian civilization and Obama's model for secular democracy is today over 99% Muslim in composition making it not predominantly Muslim as reported but virtually exclusively Muslim. Yes welcome to the future indeed.
  17. Jim Murray from United States writes: I stayed nine months in Istanbul 1987-88 and found it to be one of the most interesting historical city in the world. I wore out a pair of shoes walking the Theodosian Walls and exploring Sinan's mosques. Sitting on a bench at Nose Point watching the traffic on the Bosporus was delightful. The best restaurants were holes in the wall with a spit of lamb or chicken turning in the window. The taxis, dolmushes, the train from Backarkoy, the covered bazarre (pardon my spelling), the bridge across the Golden Horn. One drawback then was the awful polution- they burned lignite for fuel. Wonderful people. Be careful with the raki! Street crime was a problem, too.
  18. John Milandi from Toronto, Canada writes: Henry B, considering your own criticism of the author's knowledge of history, yours is considerably lacking. Most of what is now known as Turkey was already under Muslim rule as of 1300 (and even earlier) by various Beys and the Sultanate of Rm.

    Only Constantinople fell to Ottoman forces in 1453.
  19. Little Bear from Canada writes: Mike One fellow murdered by the cops here versus untold hundreds of girls held against their wills for sex.

    You compare. Stupid fellow
  20. Bang the Drum from Toronto, Canada writes: Istanbul is a wonderful city, but be careful. I got scammed using an ATM my first day - I was stupid and too trusting for a megalopolis. My advice? Go, but don't go alone as I did. See Istanbul's major sites - the Bazaar, Sultanahmet, Aga Sofia, the Blue Mosque, then get out of town. The rest of Turkey has it all, at cheaper prices and a more relaxed pace. Go to Izmir. Take the dolmus to Kusadasi through the lemon groves. Stay in a small town, like Selcuk near Ephesus. Get to know some local people as more than a tourist. They will appreciate your interest, and if you let their kids practise their English with you, they'll be eternally grateful. Once you start to have interactions that aren't about commerce, you've found the real Turkey. (You can probably find that in Istanbul if you take the time, but I didn't). Reserve a couple of days at the end for a return to Istanbul, shopping etc. if you feel the need to do that, and to hit any sights you might have missed. But don't miss out on the wonderful villages. The country is steeped in history - remember, it is ancient Greece. I'd go back in a heartbeat.
  21. Jim Murray from United States writes: Bang the Drum is right on. I flew to Adana from Jeddah in a B-727 sharing three seats with a family of three. I was the fourth and I realized I had taken one of theirs. Their little girl, 10 or 11, had to sit on her mother's lap in the middle seat with me at the window, the father on the aisle. Soon after take-off, the mother needed a cigarette but with the girl on her lap it was difficult so I gestured that I would take the girl on my lap. The mother beamed in happiness and let me take her. While they spoke no English, I learned they were from near Iskanderia and that they wanted me to come visit. I would have loved to but communication would have been a problem. What other people would let a stranger take a little girl on their lap?
  22. Daniel Bach from Glasgow, writes: I was overwhelmed upon stepping off the bus into Taksim Square on my first trip to Istanbul, not only with the buzz in the air on a Friday afternoon, but also with how modern and European-minded the people around were.

    Istanbul is full of top class shops, restaurants, bars and hotels, and with the class job they have done in contrasting the modern with every era of the city's rich history makes many other 'top' European destinations look pretty poor in comparison.

    In fact, I wish I was there right now, away from the rain.
    Hope to go back soon, and will definitely be CouchSurfing with one of the thousands of Istanbul natives who are eager to let you rest your weary head and heavy bag.
  23. T D from Toronto, Canada writes: Please get your facts straight. Istanbul or Constantinople if you will, was not called the Paris of the Middle East; Lebanon was.
  24. Gerry Dunnhaupt from Toronto, Canada writes: Istanbul may not be as fortunate as the article states, because the city expects a devastating earthquake in the very near future and is quite unprepared for it. The loss of lives could be terrible. Cities like Tokyo, L.A. and San Francisco could lend a hand now by educating the population to get better prepared.
  25. John Q Public from Oakville, Canada writes: I spent a week in Istanbul in fall 1991 , backpacking on hiatus from UW. I cannot recall seeing one westernized store aside from possibly one McDonalds. Tons of historical stuff to see. We met lots of friendly people, although mostly trying to sell us stuff. We took the free Raki anyhow.
    Stayed in a scary hostel for $7 per night.
    After Istanbul we took a bus ride across country to Cappadocia, its fantastic. Later Ismiz before looping back to Greece.
    Fantastic stuff outside Istanbul too.
  26. Bruce Macdonald from Paris, France writes: I checked and the price for a US Citizen's visa for Turkey is 15 Euro. There are about four countries whose visas are 20 Euros, then Canada at 45 Euros.

    I would like to know why the Canadian visa is 2.5 times the next closest?
  27. Mike Chamberlain from Canada writes: Little Bear, I'm not comparing anything. My point is that you can pick and choose nasty stuff that happens anywhere in the world--and it does happen everywhere in the world. It doesn't seem to me to be very useful to slag a whole society for the actions of its organized criminals. As for "white slavery", if you wanted to avoid places where it happens, you'd stay in your apartment for the rest of your life.
  28. IOSO IOSO from Canada writes: In the summer of 2001 our family of 4 backpacked thru-out Turkey for 2 unforgettable months--- do yourself a favour and visit Turkey---at least once in your life... we had 2 guidebooks and lots of energy--what a trip!!!
  29. Panta Rei from Albania writes: I thought that in order to see Istanbul one just has to go to Frankfurt
  30. fergus macduff from United Kingdom writes: Ac from Paris = you're right. Paris is a bigger shthole than istanbul. thanks for pointing it out. as for us brits thinking everywhere is a shthole - well we are just honest. there are plenty of holes here in the uk too. turkey has some great spots to visit. istanbul is not one of them
  31. S T from Toronto, Canada writes: My sister and I travelled to Turkey last month and in no other city have we been able to cross two continents (Asia and Europe) within 15 minutes. We stayed just off Istiklal which can be compared to an crowded, bustling Queen West in Toronto. Food is exceptional. There is a wide variety of restaurants for all budgets and no shortage of exotic treats. Try Konyali, Havuzlu and grilled fish on the quay( tasty, but lots of bones!). The "odd Turkish ice cream" that the author referred to is called dondurma. It's made of goat cheese and orchid root and is quite delightful! While Beyoglu had its own charm, Sultanhamet was fantastic. Being 2 women, we never experienced any of the "infamous hisses and cat calls from shopkeepers and other men" as described by the author of the article. You just have to have your wits about you. Public transport was unbelievably efficient with its modern tram lines, extensive bus routes and a spotless, marble-floored metro. Btw, the cost of a visa for Canadians is US$60.00. They just flip open any page, stick a stamp and enjoyed being paid in American dollars. It hardly takes 2 minutes. Keep EUROS or US$ handy (they give discounts in the bazaars) and don't bring home any Turkish Lira as you will get a pitiful rate for it.

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